Community Voices

Crime Watch: Protect yourself and loved ones from prescription-drug abuse

Thank you for so many emails regarding last week’s column on terrorism. Many of you were shocked to learn that we’re still at risk, but that as long as we work closely with our law enforcement partners — by us being their “eyes and ears” — we will be safe.

Today, I want to address the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. I recently received several emails from seniors who were concerned about having lots of medicine they don’t use and wanted to know what to do with it. I also got an email from a woman whose home was broken into and medicine cabinet cleaned out. She was confused why.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prescription medicines most commonly abused by youths include pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and depressants. They break into homes looking to see what’s in the medicine cabinet. And it’s not only teens. Many adults are addicted to drugs and depend on the medications in your cabinet to feed their habits.

There are several things you can do to help prevent drug abuse and also protect your own safety.

▪ Keep an updated list of medicines in your home. Take an inventory at least a couple of times a year — when clocks “spring” forward in the spring and “fall” back in autumn, for example.

▪ Keep prescription medicines safely stored. A locked storage area can help prevent others from accessing medicine not intended for them. (You should advise your friends and family to do the same.)

▪ If you have teens in the house, warn them that taking someone else’s prescription medicine can be just as dangerous and potentially as lethal as taking illegal street drugs.

▪ Its important to get rid of medicine that is no longer needed or expired. Speak to your pharmacist about the best way. You can also visit or visit the Food and Drug Administration website at and search for “Rx drug disposal” for more information.

▪ Never flush medicine down the toilet. It can cause contamination to our aquatic environment because wastewater treatment systems are not designed to remove many of these medications.

To dispose, first mark out your name and prescription number. For pills, add some water or soda to start dissolving them; for liquids add something inedible, such as cat litter or dirt. Close the lid and secure with duct tape. Place the bottle or bottles inside an opaque (non see-through) container like a detergent box or food box then tape the container closed. Hide the container in the trash can and make sure it can’t be seen. Do not put in the recycle bin. The more you disguise them the better chance that they won’t be found.

For more information, please visit sponsored by the National Community Pharmacists Association and Purdue Pharma, which provided this information.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to, or call her at 305-470-1670.